Take the Rose

Take the Rose

Take the Rose

All across the country today, churches are handing out flowers to mothers in honor of Mother’s Day.  And all across the country, women stand at the doors of those Christ-dwellings, trembling.

They are the women who yelled at their children just five minutes before.

They are the women who conceived but never bore.

They are the women who feel their motherhood is trapped inside where no one can see it.

They are the women who fought for a child and lost.

They are the women became mothers in their bodies before their hearts were ready.

They are the women who do not love motherhood.

They are the women who long for motherhood.

Long ago, when someone pondered the good and lofty calling of motherhood, she could not know that declaring a national holiday to celebrate maternity would end up being such a nasty business.  After all, everyone has a mother.

Yet not everyone is a mother. 

Suit-clad ushers stand at church doors with buckets of roses to thrust at the women who come in with a gaggle of children, but they cannot know the depths of motherhood in the hearts of the women who come in alone. 

This one suffered a miscarriage just the month before.

This one is putting part of her paycheck aside every month for an adoption that may never happen.

This one has put more miles on her car and gotten more invasive exams than any woman ever should just to find out why.

This one hugs neighbor kids whose own mother cannot be bothered.

This one struggles to be the mother she knows she needs to be, even though she feels the weight of failure night after night when the kids are in bed and she relives the day.

This one knows she is a mother, and she knows she is not a mother, all at once. 

It is a beautiful, nasty business the way God created women to mother.  He wove the threads in so tight, they pull and rip and ache sometimes, especially when some women are clothed in motherhood, and others are half-naked and clinging to rags.

Women, we are mothers; we are not mothers.  All of us.

All across the country, the church doors are open and meager roses try to distinguish which is which.  Only it cannot be done.  If motherhood was nothing more than a biological distinction, it might be easier.

But motherhood is so much more than pregnancy.  It is so much more than birth.  It is even  more than sheer emotional attachment.  It is all of it and none of it all at once, and just as soon as you think you have it all figured out, another mother comes along and messes up all the algorithm.

So who gets a rose?

You do.

You who have borne children.

You who have nurtured children.

You who have lost children.

You who love children and you who want to love them more.

Take the rose.

Reach out your hand, not with trembling fear of judgment but with bold confidence that the God who made you made you to mother, whether you bore those babies in your body or not.  Take the rose because mothering children is so much more than procreation.  Take the rose because it is procreation.

Take the rose because you are a mother. 

Take it because you are not yet the mother you want to be.

Take it because motherhood is more than a becoming.  It is a being, and you can be a mother long before you have children, and you can not be a mother for a long time after.

It is a beautiful, nasty business, motherhood.

But if God wove motherhood into you, it was because He chose you for it.  He is the one who determines your motherhood. Not a baby. Not a rose.  

And He is not bothered in the least if your motherhood defies convention.  He is big enough to glory in a motherhood that is messy.  He is big enough to bless a motherhood that is barren.  He is big enough to rejoice in a motherhood that plays out on a stage only He can see.

If He put within you a heart for children and whispered “Mother” into your ear, then it is done.  It cannot be undone by any force on this earth.

You are a mother.

Take the rose.

 

Glass etching a mirror

Make an Etched Mirror, Plus a Giveaway!!!

Glass etching a mirror

I love old stuff.  I love the dusty smell the years leave behind and the memories tucked into things that have lasted long beyond their owners.

I particularly love old mirrors, the kind that have real silver on the backs and bubbles in the glass and hand-glued labels on the wood.  I haul them home whenever I can, and my husband gives me that husband look that says he doesn’t appreciate blurry, wrecked mirrors the way I do and he wonders if we don’t already have enough already?

As if.

One of the mirrors I scavenged was from a church garage sale.  It was framed with barn boards and the silver was delightfully scratched and it weighed about half as much as me.  I lugged it home and when my husband rolled his eyes, I said, “Don’t worry.  I’m going to do something with this.”

Which, in point of fact, was not the part that worried him.

My plan was to make an etched mirror.  For years, I toyed around with what to do.  I even bought supplies to make my own stencil, but I couldn’t quite find the right thing and I was a little afraid I would ruin the mirror (never mind the fact that my husband thought it was too late for that).

So, I was thrilled when I turned on my computer one day and found a link a friend shared to Fruitful Vine Creations.  They make gorgeous vinyl wall decals in every shape and size, including the one below.

to walk justly

Micah 6:8 happens to be one of my favorite verses.  I even named a child after that book of the Bible.  I was in love.

The size of this decal was perfect for my mirror.  I knew I could affix the vinyl piece to it and the hardest part of my glass-etching project would be done for me!

Best of all, this particular letter art was being featured that week as the company’s Fruitful Deal.  Every week, they offer one vinyl letter design at a deep discount.  I scored this design for 50% off!

Once my order arrived, I positioned the vinyl decal on my mirror.

Vinyl Wall Art

Then, I secured the design with tape on one edge and peeled the back off.  This way, I could flip the design back onto the glass.  (All the directions are included in the package, and they are super easy to follow, so don’t worry if that part doesn’t make sense.  It will when you see their step-by-step tutorial).

I squeegeed the design onto the glass, pushing out air bubbles and making sure the design was stuck on tight.  Since I was going to be applying glass etching acid to the top of this vinyl, I wanted to make sure all the edges were sealed.

Fruitful Vine Creations

Once that was done, I carefully pulled the top sheet off.  The decal was perfectly positioned underneath.

Applying Vinyl to a Mirror

Now it was time to get to work with the etching. 

To etch glass at home, all you need is glass etching goo.  This is what I used to do the job.  This is the link to the product description on my Amazon affiliate page.  But,  it’s crazy expensive.  I highly recommend using a coupon and getting it at your local craft store if you can.  I got mine at Hobby Lobby for 40% off.

Armour Etch

Using a paint brush, smear that stuff all over the mirror, right on top of the vinyl, until it is evenly coated.

Glass Etch

The product is a little lumpy.  Ignore.

The directions on the Armour Etch say to leave the product on for 60 seconds.  I tested this with a smaller bottle and that amount of time was not nearly sufficient.  Maybe it’s because my mirror is very old and things were made better back in the day.  I don’t know.  But I had to go back and purchase another bigger bottle and try again.

Bother.

I let it sit for about fifteen minutes, or until I could see the glass was cloudy underneath.  Then, I washed off the creme, cleaned the mirror, and let it dry.

Decorate a mirror

You will notice that the glass-etching product did not take evenly.  Grrr…I am telling myself that the variations in cloudiness are in keeping with the weathered look of the mirror.  I may go back and purchase another jar of Armour Etch if I decide not to leave my children an inheritance.

You will also notice that the vinyl looks just as good as it did before I applied the acid.  In fact, a simple design might be able to be used again.

For me, it was time to remove the vinyl letters and see if the etching worked.

Glass Etching

It did!

This particular design from Fruitful Vine Creations is very delicate, so I was a little worried that the acid might get underneath the thin parts.  It didn’t.  The vinyl stuck tight, just like it was supposed to, and gave me beautiful, crisp lines.

Vinyl Glass Etching

It’s hard to tell because the mirror creates a double image, but the lines are so clean.  You can even feel them with your fingers, just like on real etched-glass.

Glass etching mirrors

I love the way the Scripture verse looks on the mirror.  The light catches the words in different ways at different times, and it is beautiful.  Even my husband has to admit that this old mirror isn’t so bad.

Aren’t you all dying to get your hands on some vinyl letter art so you can create your own etched mirror masterpiece???

You are in luck!  I contacted Tonya over at Fruitful Vine Creations and told her what amazing readers I have and how much you all would love to shop on her site.  She offered to give you all a chance to win a $50 shopping spree from Fruitful Vine Creations!  This gift certificate can be used on anything in their store, including shipping!  The only exclusions are the My Fruitful Deal decals (which are already a smashing great price, you might just want to sign up for their sale e-mails so you don’t miss any).

To enter, just fill out the Rafflecopter below!  I will draw a winner at 6 pm Monday, April 14.  Enjoy!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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How to Fix Furniture with Mayo

How to Fix Furniture with Mayo

How to Fix Furniture with Mayo

Last Friday, we got a bigger dining room table.  It’s from Pottery Barn, ya’ll.  Remember my love affair with Pottery Barn?

Even though it isn’t new, it’s the only thing in my house from Pottery Barn (and probably always will be),  Better yet, all my kids can fit around it with room for company (as long as that company doesn’t have personal space issues), so I kind of love it.

Two days after we hauled that baby into the dining room, I scorched the top.  If you follow my Five in Tow Facbebook page, you already heard the confession.  Basically, I plunked my red-hot cast-iron Dutch oven smack down on top of that thing, and even though I had hot pads underneath the pot, it didn’t matter.

When I cleared the table after dinner, I saw a huge, ugly white mark right in the middle of the table.  I ruined my Pottery Barn table two days after taking possession of it!

This is why we can’t have nice stuff.   I am not worthy.

I almost burst into tears right then and there.  Then I remembered some old trick involving mayonnaise and wood.  Really, that’s all I had.  I couldn’t even remember what the mayo was supposed to help with but I grabbed the jar from the fridge and smeared some right on that horrific mark.

It disappeared. 

I could not believe it.  I can have nice things after all!  I can!

In my distress about the table, I did not think to take a picture before smearing on the condiments, but I did post my success to Facebook.  I went on there and told you all how to fix furniture with mayo.

That started an interesting question.  Some of you had heard of the ol’ mayo trick but had not had such stellar results.  You were sad because you could not fix your furniture with mayo.

That got me thinking.  I had some ideas of why my table responded so well to the mayonnaise, and it had to do with heat.  The spot on my table was still warm when I applied the mayo, and I wondered if that had anything to do with the amazing results.

I decided to do some experimenting.

CAN MAYO REALLY FIX FURNITURE?

It just so happens that I also ruined another piece of furniture a few years ago (see note above about not being able to have nice things).  My mother-in-law gave me an antique dresser when we first got married.  Technically, she loaned it to me, but I’ve got squatter’s rights on it now.

Besides, there’s the awkward fact that I made a huge watermark on the top of that very dresser because I didn’t realize the fern I had watered completely overflowed.  Water pooled up under the pot and sat there grinning until I noticed it later that night.

By then, it was too late.

I didn’t know what to do so I’ve been hiding that awful spot under piles of clothing for the last two years.  My husband thinks I’m a slob.  Really, I just can’t have nice things (see note above).

Watermarks on furniture

Do you think she’d notice something is different about it?  I mean, it has been a few years.

Water damaged furniture

It seemed this piece of furniture was prime for a little..experimentation (my husband agrees, especially if experimentation is synonymous with burning).  If anything screams, “You’ve got nothing to lose!” it’s this dresser.

First, I smeared mayonnaise all over the watermark and let it sit.  I didn’t notice much, if any, difference.  Some of the very faint marks looked a little better, but it was negligible.

It was time to test my hypothesis.

SO…I got out my hair dryer.  Holy smokes.  Check out what happened.

Furniture Restoration with mayo

I put the hair-dryer on high, and half-an-hour later, it looked like this:

Repair furniture with mayo

That’s a two-year-old, nasty watermark, and it almost disappeared!  In case you forgot how horrific it looked before, here’s the side-by-side:

Use Mayo to erase watermarks

I noticed that the darker places were the peaks of the mayo.  In other words, the places where the mayo was the thickest turned out the darkest.

So I went gangster with the mayo on that watermark. Fix furniture with mayo

Overkill, perhaps?

This time, I heated the wood before I applied the mayonnaise.  Then, I smeared it on thick and hit it with more heat.  I know you’re thinking, “I don’t have time to blow-dry a dresser.”  Neither do I.  So, I rigged up this high-tech automatic blow-drying device.  Ta-da!
Furniture Repair with Mayo

After three rounds, the dresser looks like this:

The Amazing Mayo Trick

Now, it’s not perfect, especially since the water damage actually changed the texture of the top of the dresser.  But it’s significantly better than it was earlier today.  Given the level of damage on this particular piece of furniture, I’d say the mayonnaise did an amazing job!  In fact, I could probably get away with putting just one bird on it.

Furniture repaired by mayo

MAYO FOR THE WIN!

I’m pretty convinced.  Mayonnaise does an amazing job of restoring furniture damage due to heat, water, or (ahem) neglect.

What does this mean?

We can all have nice things!  (Just keep the mayo close by).

 

 

 

Interruptions

Life Interruptions

Interruptions

The washing machine is choking on bedclothes and pajamas.  A sour-sick smell languishes in the air, half-heartedly mingling with the fresh herbal scents of the lavender and peppermint I am using to disinfect everything.

My son sits on the couch and watches me through hollow eyes.  Just yesterday, he was bright and laughing.  Today, he has aged a hundred years.  His body holds him captive; he’s a pawn in the fight that rages inside.

He is limp.

Fire burns across his cheeks.

I can’t see him in his eyes; he looks at me, but he is not there.

We have been up all night, we two, one of us huddled around the toilet, the other standing guard with a roll of paper towels and a spray bottle.  He has been dunked in a tub or run through a shower three times already.  My hands are chapped from the washing.

The sun has not yet warmed the sleep out of the earth, but already the plans for the day have evaporated.  The intentions of six are trumped by the sickness of one. 

Jonathan’s birthday—his tenth birthday—is just days away, and for the first time in my mothering career, I actually planned a party.  Not just a party for relatives, but a real party with handmade invitations and too-much sugar and ten high-energy testosterone-dripping boy-guests who are all planning to explode things in the backyard by way of celebration.

But everything halts because this child is ill.  I cannot go to the store to get the last few supplies for the cake.  I can’t get the PVC pipe to make marshmallow shooters.  I can’t even get out of the laundry room long enough to sweep the kitchen floor or pick up the school room.  I can’t…I can’t…I can’t…

Sick Boy

The sudden change in plans, the newly-formed void in my day, opens up a space in me that my heart rushes in to fill.  Gurgling, bubbling, spilling out into me from its excess of good—or bad—my heart shows up in that interruption.

It happens so rapidly, I cannot stop it.  It is just there, like a sudden string of traffic on an already busy morning, and I can do nothing but look and see what has just bubbled up inside of me simply because plans changed.  In an instant, I see the state of things in that hidden room.

Nature abhors a vacuum.  So does the heart.  When the day brings something unexpected, or plans change, or life gets interrupted by God’s intentions, your heart will fill the void. 

It may rush in with hot words and short-tempers, if that is what it has in greatest supply.  Or, if it has enough in stock, it may spill over into your soul with grace and patience.  Either way, the greatest indication of where your heart is at is not in how it behaves when life is under control.  It is in what happens when life is interrupted.  What flows out of your heart then is the surplus, the thing it has the most to spare.

Is it good?

Or is it shameful?

I finally get a moment to stand in the shower while my boy sleeps on the couch with a bowl by his side.  I think back to my grade school days.  Twice a week, we lined up and trotted down the hall to the art room.  We donned oversized shirts to cover up the school clothes we’d already dirtied on the playground and set to work with brushes and pencils and glue that smelled like it should be eaten.

Sometimes, we were given great lumps of clay to work into bowls and saucers and little figurines that our mothers would feel obligated to keep on their dressers until we married.

Those lumps of clay were always gooey and cold in my hands, at first.  If I was impatient and tried to bend it into a bowl, it snapped and crumbled.  But if I held the clay in my hands and worked it until the warmth of my body infused that bit of earth, then I could twist and turn and bend it in any direction, and it would not break.

My heart is clay. 

Sometimes, it is cold and brittle.  Any sudden, unexpected molding causes me to break instead of bend.   It does not matter if I intend to break or not.  It simply happens that way because I was not ready.  My heart was not prepared the way it should have been.

Sick day interruptions

But when I dwell in the hands of the Potter, and His life radiates through every molecule of my little lump of dirt, I cannot help but be pliable.  He has warmed and readied me for His own purposes.

My life was interrupted today.  Was yours?

Did you like what you saw when your heart bubbled up to fill the void in your sense of control?

If not, then take your mind captive to this: Those interruptions are the very things He is using to transform you from a ball of dirt into a holy vessel , sanctified and set apart for Kingdom work.  Those things that seem like interruptions and unexpected annoyances do not take Him by surprise.  In fact, they are His intention for you.

He uses these things to show you what is in your heart.  Then He says, “Now, come into my hands and let us see what we can do with that.”

The interruptions in your day are God’s invitation to dwell in Him.  Let Him hold your heart-clay and make it soft.  Let Him fill you with His radiating goodness so that when life screeches to a halt, His is the One who fills the void.

No record of rights

Keeping No Record of Rights

No record of rights

The first time Jenny came to church, she wore her neediness like an only dress.  You could see where it had been mended over and over again along the same creases, and the places in the hem where pride had been stuffed in to hide the holes.

For five minutes, I loved her with a godly love.  I cared about her burdens, and I carried them.  I took her into my home and sat her on my couch and thought to myself that it didn’t matter what kind of broken she was, I could love her back together again.  It was all very good and terribly Christian.

I’d send her home with a casserole or a hand-me-down for her daughter and all the while, I thought I was sewing her up better than any seamstress she had ever known before.

Then the day came when all the stitches ripped out and the fabric I had tried to save disintegrated in my hands.  It cut me wide open in a way I didn’t know fabric could and I watched all that neediness dissolve into nakedness and all that nakedness reveal a horrible disfigurement that I was vain to think I could cover up with a casserole.

It smacked me hard and I stumbled back.  I loved her…how could she not love me?

“I am not your project!” she had yelled on her way out the door with nothing on.

“Good,” I thought.  “I don’t need a project.”  But I said, “Of course not.  You’re my friend.”

“Really?  We’re peers?”

Well, no…

I paused to think of something sufficiently pious to say, but in that split-second, she opened her mouth and vomited back every good thing I had ever done.  Every bit of my love had been chewed up and churned over until it was unrecognizable.  She spewed the bitter, sour contents of her wrath all over me until it was all out, every single bit of it, and she had nothing left to say.

I stood on my porch dripping in bile and watched her go.

Of course I will forgive her, I thought in the afterglow of my piety.  Even as the words came into my head, it was done.  She was forgiven.  Love keeps no record of wrongs, I reminded myself.

Transactions

I cleaned myself up as best I could, but my heart ached.  I grieved for her, for this person God had brought into my life to love.  Only, she could not receive love.  I had poured it into her, but it did not sink in.  It only sat there and putrefied.

I thought back over all the times I had listened, all the times I had dropped everything and rushed to her rescue, all the nights my husband had to feed the kids because I was feeding hers.  How quickly the list of rights began to mount because I had kept track of them all and I really didn’t think I deserved to be treated the way she had.

I was sure of it.

And oh, I didn’t love her very much right then.

Because just as much as love can’t keep a record of wrongs, it can’t keep a record of rights either.  It cannot be good and godly and gospel while running a tab.

It is the same in ministry as it is in marriage or family or any time you begin to think someone owes you something for your kindness, anytime you begin to feel that someone should behave better because you behaved the way you ought.

Secretly, in the recesses of my heart, I had been keeping accounts.  According to my ledger, she owed me the change I expected to see in her life.   What should have been a work of the Spirit had become a work of my flesh.  I had the receipts to prove it.

Checks and balances

Only it didn’t work.  That kind of love didn’t bind us together.  It wedged a debt between us that became harder and harder to reconcile.

I piled works all around where grace should have been because it was easier.  It was easier to mend her dress than to dwell with her in her nakedness.  She was broken.  She was offensive.

She needed me to cover a bit of that up.

So I thought.

Only, she didn’t need meShe needed Christ in me.  It’s a fine distinction.  One makes casseroles and expects a transformation in return.

The other is the transformation.

All my right deeds and all my right words could not do that for her.  Only Jesus could do that.  The One who redeems rebels as sons and harlots as brides—that’s what she needed to see in me.  He does it over and over again and tears up the receipt every time.

But I robbed the cross when I wrote up her debt, as if she owed me anything for the goodness I gave out of the grace I had been given.

Payment due

Every time I scribbled my good little deeds into the margins of my Bible, I mared the gospel.  As if I could add anything to the gospel with that kind of love, as if I could earn my way any closer to Christ than through the work He did on the cross.

As if I could secure anyone to Him by indebting them with my self-righteous works.    

The only place for my record of rights is at the foot of the cross, where all my doings are wrapped up in His “Done” and the only thing I know is Jesus Christ and Him crucified.

It is the only record of rights that is truly love, and the only record of rights that will ever be enough.